Category Archives: Musing

The Fourth

Today we celebrate our independence. Our country’s birthday. But it wasn’t. The declaration wasn’t even signed this day, I believe the truth is, it was read this day. It’s not like there was this nine month growing from seed to country and then Happy Birthday, you are a country.

This was a process, long, contentious, war-wearying, irrational while yet being the most brilliant, most rational, most elegant solution to government that anyone had ever seen and will likely see again. There is no country on this planet that has been granted the freedoms and the opportunities that are available here. A wonder of wonders for two hundred forty one years.

Today we are divided not just politically but culturally and emotionally because of that WeThe People document and the constitution which did not come into existence until later. My American history is a bit rusty. Not my favorite historical period, truth be told, I have always found it burdened with too many overtones of emotional response, this is my country. It is hard to separate my pride and glee that I was lucky enough to be born here, grow up here, work here, live here.  And, whenever I travel, now or in the past, I am always stuck by the fact that this is where I want to be. Living abroad was an interesting idea, but not one I would take seriously. That is just me.

In the seventies, during the Vietnam war, it was ‘love it or leave it,’ an extreme sentiment to be sure, and not one I agreed with. Because of, maybe in spite of this sentiment, it feels like we have spent the past forty years trying to be more like everyone else, Europe, especially. In my research in the colonial period of Africa, I find that Eurocentrism so strange. It is a view that Europeans are right, they are perfect and the rest of us, from the Americas to the East and the Mideast  to the Africans, are all just slightly less; undereducated, under civilized, and undergoverned. The change in political parties running the US government can be seen as a repudiation;  that many are not willing to abdicate their inalienable rights to a political elite in Washington. That we want to be less governed. We are not undereducated, but perhaps not well taught. Not undercivilized, but civilized differently.

I find it to be unconscionable that some may want to deny what are my inalienable rights for a supposed, in their discretion, a greater good. My rights are not subject to anyone else’s suppositions!  I am not a revolutionary, never could be. Well, that is wrong, I could be persuaded, not sure what I could do at this point, but….

Today, in honor  of all those who fought with word and deed, and those who fought  with gun and sword, who believed all those long years ago, that humans were and are able to think for themselves and to govern themselves with enlightenment, facility and courage, we owe ourselves and our children better than what we  have now.

This is about me, and you, my family, and yours. This is about a country that was founded on the basic truth of acceptance. Acceptance that this is a just and viable form for govenering a free people.

More than happy birthday, thank you.

Love

Love can be wielded like a cudgel. There is the commercial Love has no Labels. Love is about diversity and inclusion. From the my Baltimore Catechism we learned of the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity; faith in our God, hope in the promise of heaven, and charity which is benevolent, disinterested, and generous, bringing forth friendship and communion. Most say Faith, Hope and Love. But no. Charity– ‘love one another as I have loved you.’ Open, sacrificial, giving, no strings, no tag lines.

Recently there was a TED talk by a Dr. Mary Donohue, a ‘preeminent keynote speaker on multigenerational workplace’.  Dr. Donohue’s TED talk is about the ways in which the other generations communicate enabling one generation to talk to the other so, in her words “work doesn’t suck!”  She uses a phrase like ‘conversation clever,’ describing the generations as builders, doers, adapters, brilliant and then neatly goes on to prove each point with very commercial examples. Sigh. Her talk is clever, practiced, polished and gives each generation something to like about itself and dislike about the others. Supposedly this will help communication but I don’t think it will advance love.

The way we use love  in a commercial campaign is about the same. Slick, practiced, polished and neatly pigeonholed to show it is all right for same sex love, to love a sibling who is disabled, to love one of another ethnicity. And I get it. I don’t think that is the love that will save the planet–politically or culturally.

In my faith Charity is the greatest of them all. In this world Truth is the greatest of them all.  There is the ideal that  love will solve our problems. I think of a banner my sister gave me while in college. We laughed about it because it is so real, so true. It is easy to say that love will conquer all. But no. Not really. It won’t conquer. It can’t even alleviate the distress. Just look at our national politics and all who say that they only want everyone to love one another. Do we see everyone as willing to be  ‘benevolent and open’?

I can say I love everyone. Love is so much easier. But truth, truth is the coin of love, it is what makes love potent, desirable, unshakable. Truth is harder than love because you may have to admit to a lie, one that may have protected you, that made you look good, that served your interest.

Why this interest in truth?

In the middle grade mysteries I write, while love is the emotion that drives the character, it is the truth that finds the killer. A character can grow in love, but it is in finding the truth that lets the main character understand and be ready to take responsibility, to grow up. Putting  together means, motive and opportunity and identifying the killer is to find the truth. Only truth breaks through.

In nonfiction it is the weeding out the propaganda, the bias, the self-interest, both in studying the historical figure and in assaying the author. In nonfiction, with a historical perspective, truth can be victim to the sham of love. It is the sham of love that  wrapped a whole people allowing them to  suffer totalitarianism, brutality and oppression for decades. Only truth will break through.

 

Monday

The quad at Villa Cabrini was always in the shade in the morning. We were deep inside the grounds, up the oak lined front drive, past the grotto of the Virgin Mary, around the small holly lined circular drive to the imposing marble stairs. The front of the school was classrooms below, nuns living quarters up stairs. The building was solid brick, meant to withstand the ages, Mother Cabrini no slouch in considering the long run.

When we were late <which was a lot, because Mom was never on time> we dashed through the front door, the wooden screen door slamming behind. We’d come out in the middle of the quad, right near where the Angelus bell was rung every single day at noon. Mother Amedia, tall, thin, very Italian, used to call me Brigante…although she well knew my name, she well knew me.

When we were early, which for us was on time, we came up the back drive, lined  with eucalyptus trees, leaves dripping down, bark hanging like worried scabs, into the lower parking lot, past the fishpond, alongside the chapel and into the quad. Maybe if we were early enough I would enter the back of the chapel, drop to one knee on the cold marble tile and whisper the prayer to St. Anthony, because I was always losing something. Sometimes it was just precautionary, Anthony and I went way back.

In the quad, we lined up by class, eighth grade closest to the playground, kindergarteners way at the end although their class room was on the other side of the kitchen above the eighth grade room.  It would be cool, that California cool of the 1950s, desert cool, knowing that the day would be warm, hot, but this was a shiver up your spine, glad you had your sweater, the one you wouldn’t be able to find, maybe, by the end of the day, cool.  Then over the loud speakers would blare a John Philip Sousa march. I loved those marches, the beat of that music started the pace of my day. The nuns probably thought it started our blood, but I’m a morning person and by the time we lined up to march, heard the announcements and then the music, I was way past the start of my day. The march would begin. And we would start to move our feet. We would be lined up in rows of two, peel off toward the back, come down in rows of four, peel off toward the back, come down in rows of two and head for our class room by grade.

The first morning of school was always my favorite. August had been hot, always hot, September would be too, but that first morning! Shoes polished. Collars and cuffs crisp. Blue uniform pressed. Sweater warm. A new book bag, sharpened pencils, new binder, with note paper, and a new lunch pail. Now that was heaven. It was ordered in a way my mind could never be. It was consistent year after year.

I didn’t know why I loved it. Maybe it was because it was the movement. Maybe it was because it was outside before long hours indoors. Maybe it was the music. Maybe it was all of that but more. Maybe that is why I have always loved Mondays and Morning.

Reality 2017

In all the tweets, posts, punditry, reporting and news broadcast words, our most important, valuable and unlimited commodity, are woefully abused. My Mom, a self proclaimed wordsmith, a skilled user of words, always said it was not just understanding the definition and spelling [always my main drawback—thanking the gods for spellcheck] but the using the word appropriately in a thought or sentence.

I was amazed when a speaker on Sunday in DC said, “We are America.” Seriously? She is college educated, from an excellent school. Let’s be real, there are 318.9 million people in the US. At the event there are maybe half a million, maybe more, across the country one or two million. The important point could have been correctly stated as a cross-section of America, or a glance at America. But no. How presumptuous and how insulting to those not there and not in agreement?

The same goes for the election. Various sources state between 220 million and 200 million in the US are eligible to vote. Statistical Brain http://www.statisticbrain.com/voting-statistics/ states the total number of American eligible to vote 218,959,000, the total registered to vote 146,311,000 and the total who voted? 132,899, 423. Turnout rate of all voting age citizens? 55%.

We know that Mr. Trump did not receive a mandate. But then, in her loss neither did Mrs. Clinton, albeit a majority of those who voted. The cross section of that vote showed a preponderance in just a few states, not across the land, so again, not a mandate of popularity.

We are not a democracy. At the federal level we are a republic, a federation of states of varied population. Much like democracy according to Winston Churchill- “Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”—the electoral college system is an imperfect system. Credibly though it protects the minority from the majority.

What we are missing in all this spin about mandates and popularity is the question, Why do so few exercise their obligation and their right to vote? Why does it seem that there are those who would be more likely to march? protest? than to vote? Why are there those who are discouraged from voting? And, please, do not offer the trope of I.D laws or voting restrictions by conservatives. The numbers of minority voters soared in 2008. “The voter turnout rate among eligible black female voters increased 5.1 percentage points, from 63.7% in 2004 to 68.8% in 2008. Overall, among all racial, ethnic and gender groups, black women had the highest voter turnout rate in November’s election—a first.” so apparently where there is a will, there is a way.

My own perspective is that there is a loss of joy in being American, of the accomplishment of those who came before us. How many of our population know American History? How many know the ideals of the revolution, our fight in 1814 when we almost lost Washington DC, of the courage of Dolly Madison, of the Federalist Papers, of the former presidents, of the McCarthy Era and the fight to remain a free and just county following rule of law? With each peaceful transfer of power from one leader to the next, from one party to the other, we show our success. There is so much to love about America in 2017.

I have stated before that news is raw history, some say the first draft, which makes it even more important that we are truthful in our words, that we are understanding of the import of those words, and that we appreciate the usage of those words. we have, in many ways done a disservice to the present, let us not compound that disservice for the future.

 

#oneword Choose

Like most, I’m not very good at resolutions, not for any particular reason. If a goal is that important to me, then I am probably already doing it. Many years ago, my eldest told me about picking just one word that would drive your year. This year the IC of SCBWI Carolinas came up with the same idea. It’s a great premise. For 2017 my word ischoose

For me, 2016 was an interesting year that had major downs and minor ups. Would I have chosen different outcomes? Yes. But that changes nothing.

So this year, no  worrying about the outcomes.  For 2017, I want to make choices in the here and now, consciously, with understanding, with humor, and with love.

  • I choose fearlessness.
  • I choose faithfulness.
  • I choose cheerfulness.
  • I choose acceptance.
  • I choose thankfulness.
  • I choose mindfulness.

This is not a resolution. It is how I choose to live 2017!

happy-new-year